Panera Bread added a new warning label to one of its beverages after facing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of a college student who allegedly died as a consequence of consuming the drink.
The rollout of the disclosures came shortly after the parents of 21-year-old Sarah Katz, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, took legal action against the restaurant chain, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. The wrongful death suit claims that drinking Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade caused their daughter to go into cardiac arrest in September 2022.
Katz had previously been diagnosed with a heart condition, and her parents maintain that Panera was negligent in failing to warn customers in a clear manner about the caffeine content of their Charged Lemonades.
A large 30-ounce cup of the drink has 390 mg of caffeine in it. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that a healthy adult can safely consume 400 mg of caffeine a day. Katz was reportedly able to get free refills, but it is unclear how much of the beverage she actually drank. Still, the effects caffeine has on the human body are dependent on how sensitive individuals are to it.
“Naturally flavored, plant-based, with about as much CAFFEINE as our Dark Roast Coffee. Use in moderation,” reads the new advisories on Panera’s website. “NOT RECOMMENDED FOR children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant, or nursing women.”
The advisory is consistent now across each flavor of the drink at every chain location, according to the company.
“We were saddened to learn this week about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz,” said a spokesperson for Panera, according to NBC News. “While our investigation is ongoing, out of an abundance of caution, we have enhanced our existing caffeine disclosure for these beverages at our bakery-cafes, on our website, and on the Panera app.”
Elizabeth Crawford, a partner at the Philadelphia-based law firm Kline & Specter, which is representing the Katz family in the lawsuit, said that the previous label did not adequately communicate the amount of caffeine that it contained.
“It’s misleading in the sense that it’s not indicating that it is an energy drink,” said Crawford, per NBC News. “I’m happy that we are moving in a direction of making a change, but I consider these baby steps.”
The FDA told the news outlet that it was looking into Katz’s death and the role Charged Lemonade may have played in it:
“The FDA is saddened to hear of the passing of a consumer and, as always, takes seriously reports of illnesses or injury from regulated products. At this point, we are gathering information about this event. … [The agency] monitors the marketplace of FDA-regulated products and takes action as appropriate, including collaborating with the Federal Trade Commission regarding marketing claims.”